Iranian Fallacies – School of Vaziri

Translated by Mahboube Khalvati

The term “School of Vaziri” is often used in writings on Iranian music, but the exact meaning of the term is not clear; some of the authors have used the term to only refer to the group of Vaziri’s students, including a large group of his conservatory students and his Tar students such as Abolhassan Saba, Rouhollah Khaleghi, Ahmad Foroutan Rad, Hossein Sanjari, Heshmat Sanjari and others. But can we consider all Ali Naghi Vaziri’s students as followers of his school of thought? This is definitely a mistake, because we know that some of Vaziri’s students have chosen a completely different path than that of his.

From this last statement, it can be concluded that Vaziri’s “method” represents his school of thought and is not used to refer to his students.

Now what is this method?

To clarify this issue, we must first evaluate Mr. Vaziri’s unique projects[i] and identify those who remained loyal to them:


1-  Introducing the Iranian music as a sub-branch of classical music: Vaziri did not believe in the separation of Iranian music from Western classical music and believed that the scientific rules of music do not recognize any borders. This belief led him to draw on all the capacities of the Western classical music, from educational techniques and stage etiquette to its theoretical background, in order to reach his ideal level in the Iranian music.

2-  24 Equal temperaments (quarter tone): To standardize the intervals in the Iranian music, Vaziri proposed the use of 24 quarter tones, which was introduced in ancient Greece (and among Turks and Arabs), for Iranian music. This method made it possible to make Iranian music modes from 24 quarters, and with this method, there was no need for limited use of modulations in Iranian music.

3-  The proposal to harmonize Iranian music with the tierce method: Vaziri who strongly believed in the modal similarity of the Iranian music with the Western music wrote a book on harmonizing Iranian music in which he used the method of tierce harmony (or academic harmony) for making the Iranian music polyphonic.

4-  Dividing the main modes of Iranian music into 5 Dastgahs on the scale: in order to clarify the confusing situation in teaching modal systems of Iranian music to composers, Vaziri suggested that the Iranian music be represented by five dastgahs showed on the scale.

By reviewing the writings of Iranian musical writers and critics published in Persian-language magazines, we find pieces by followers of Vaziri who do not believe in some of the points made in this article; however, all of them believe in the first point which was mentioned above. In other words, they lack of belief thereof amounts to their abandonment of the school of Vaziri.  By not believing in the fact that Iranian music is a sub-branch of Western classical music can pose serious challenges to Vaziri’s consequent suggestions[ii].

None withstanding, it should be asserted that all the musicians who believe in a classical approach to the Iranian music can be considered as Vaziri’s followers[iii]. An important question is therefore raised: did such an approach to the Iranian music exist before Vaziri? The answer is: Yes. A brief look at old Iranian musical writings[iv] proves that such an approach to the Iranian music has a long history and was in fact revived by Vaziri[v].

Finally, it can be added that “Vaziri’s school” is not a scientific term with clear characteristics and in fact the four above-mentioned characteristics guides us toward the leader of this movement.


[i] Vaziri designed many projects which are not studied in this article; among these one can refer to teaching choir singing at schools, teaching aesthetics, etc.

[ii] When a piece of music cannot be classified as classical, it must be categorized as folkloric or popular then. If it is categorized as folkloric (as some musicians believe), it should only preserve relevant traditions. It is, therefore, meaningless to introduce modifications to it. If it falls under popular music, there is no need for making it standard and law-binding.

[iii]  Some Iranian musicians disagree with the combination of Iranian music (especially using its instruments and modes) with the culture of classical music and believe that the Iranian music must be preserved as a folk or traditional music. They further believed only some modal features and rhythmic pattern of Iranian music must be used to compose in the style of classical music (which was called scientific music). Despite this, one cannot distinguish between their works and works composed by the followers of Vaziri’s school.

[iv] We also face a challenge here for defining the Iranian music. By Iranian music in this article, we mean the music which similar to the music of dastgah and is practiced in the current borders of Iran.

[v] Even Vaziri’s tutors cannot be totally left out of the classical music culture. As a matter of fact, Vaziri’s difference with Darvish Khan is in their seriousness in promoting this culture.

Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *
Your email is never shared.

The Structure of Kurdistan Daf (IV)

Researcher: Mohammad Tarighat Translator: Fatemeh Alimohammadi Daf Structure The Structure of Daf in different cities of Iran has a great variety in terms of dimensions, components and even appearance; some of which are as follows: – Square Daf, on which the skin was stretched either on one or both sides, with strings installed inside it…
Read More »

The Structure of Kurdistan Daf (III)

“Our ancestors believe powerful blows upon the Daf scatters evil spirits of disease and distress to create a clean and holy space filled with health and prosperity. Adding tools to Daf increases this instrument’s purification, spreading, and summoning powers of evil forces and goddesses. Daf was mostly depicted by red, color of blood, in ancient times or sometimes it was depicted with green, the color of plants and nature. There were probably some mysterious designs painted upon the wooden body and frames of these instruments just like today” (Pahlavan, 2013: 44).

From Past Days…

Shaahin Mohajeri Wins UnTwelve Composition Competition

UnTwelve Non-profit Organization announced the results of its 2014/2015 composition competition on January 28, 2015. Shaahin Mohajeri, an Iranian Tonbak player, microtonalist, acoustician and composer, was awarded the second prize for his piece “Castle of Babak.”

Prominent Iranian Musicologist Passes Away in Vienna

Khosrow Djafarzadeh, musicologist and architect, who was also one of the main authors of HarmonyTalk journal passed away on 15 July 2019.

The Mystery of Messiah

Antonio Stradivari (1644 – 18 December 1737) was an Italian luthier and is considered the most significant and greatest artisan in this field.

Developments in Iranian Music Since Qajar Era (III)

Developments in Composing

Along with developments in the Iranian instruments, composition of the Iranian pieces developed as well. As a matter of fact, the developments of the two, mutually affected each other. In other words, instrumental developments led to developments in composition and vice versa.

Banan: the Artist of the Age

Gholam Hossein Banan was born in 1911 in Tehran. He was born in an affluent art-loving family who were Naser al-Din Shah Qajar (1848-1896)’s relative. The Qajar King was his mother’s uncle on her father’s side. He learnt his first lessons in music while his father sang Iranian avaz (improvised rhythmic-free singing), he then attended classes by the renowned Iranian composer, Morteza Neydavoud (1900-1990) along with his sisters; the composer is, therefore, considered as his first teacher. He then learnt Iranian avaz under the supervision of Mirza Taher Zia Resaee (Zia-o Zakerin) and Naser Seif in an oral manner.

Ashoura Opera

Ashura Opera was composed by Behzad Abdi, the Iranian composer, in 2008 based on librettos compiled by Behrouz Gharib. The main source for the libretto is poems by Mohtasham Kashani, a sixteenth century Iranian poet.

Iranian Fallacies – Global Performance

One of the most important criteria for measuring the quality of a piece of classical music is number of times the piece has been performance by different ensembles and orchestras in different eras. This belief has become so pervasive in some societies, such as Iranian society, that it is considered the only criterion for measuring the quality of a piece of classical music.

Harmony in the Iranian Music (II)

One of his works was the translation of Harmony, which was carried out with the help of Mozayyan al-Dowleh, and included a pamphlet based on which he used to teach the subject to the students of the school of music; the pamphlet was never published. It was, in fact, a kind of simple harmony for the piano with no quadriads, it rather featured the engagement of both the right hand and the left hand which was being taught at the music school for the first time. Salar-Mo’azez also composed military marches and hymns for schools, which he harmonized to be performed and piano. Likewise, he used to compose for military orchestras.

Polyphony in Iranian Music (II)

With regard to each polyphonic form, only one specific and distinguished example is analyzed. These polyphonic forms are as follows:

Call for papers SIMF 1396

The Association of Iranian Contemporary Music Composers (ACIMC) and SHAHREAFTAB Art & Cultural Association are pleased to announce a call for papers for SIMF 1396.